Brief updates from Austhink Consulting




March 2014

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We're back with our monthly newsletter after a little hiatus due to summer break and now a heavy load of interesting projects.  
Moneyball Down Under
If you've ever read Michael Lewis's classic Moneyball, you will have a vivid sense of the impact that data & good analytics can potentially have in sports. We have begun work in this area with an elite team, and see the field as rich in intriguing challenges and possibilities. Apart from hard data and its uses, there are "softer" questions of how decisions are made within a coaching team. What deliberative processes are used and with what results? Can they be improved and, if so, how would we measure the improvement?
Winning Major Bids
How does a team working on a major bid evaluate its own logic and chances of success? We are currently working with a large IT firm on developing methods and associated training for improving the rigour with which a bid team scrutinizes its own thinking. The ultimate goal of the project of course is to improve the firm's overall success rate on bids.  
YourView going Nuclear
Our YourView platform has been publicly quiet since last year's Election Forum. However things are gearing up again with first steps towards a "National Virtual Forum" on the complex question of nuclear power for Australia. The plan is to have a low-key pilot in 2014, followed by a major public forum further down the track. The plan is getting backing from organisations with an interest in seeing a high-quality public debate. The pilot hasn't gone live yet, but in the meantime, if you haven't seen last year's pro-nuclear movie Pandora's Promise, you can - should! - watch it for free on The Age TV.   
Sporting ethics, the US Defence portfolio and asylum seekers
Since our last newsletter, Paul has contributed an opinion piece to The Age at the height of the Australian Open about Stanislas Wawrinka's motto (derived from Samuel Beckett); a reflection for the Australia Israel Review on the memoirs of US secretary of defence Robert Gates (in the just released April edition) and a review for The Australian's Weekend Review of the new Quarterly Essay by Paul Toohey on boats, people smugglers and refugees. That piece was out last Saturday. A longer essay on Gates and the question of insurgency, military and intellectual, will appear in Quadrant in May.
"Statistically significant" becoming less so
Many of us would at some point have been trained, to some degree, in the use of "p" values and more broadly "null hypothesis significance testing" - the statistical methodology used so widely in science, and from which we get the familiar and widely abused term "statistically significant."  For years, our colleagues Geoff Cumming and Neil Thomason, and others, have been working hard to educate the world to understand that this standard methodology is deeply problematic, and that there are far better alternatives, including The New Statistics, and Bayesian approaches. They appear to be succeeding.  An important moment in this development is the recent publication in the august science journal Nature of an interesting commentary on problems with the standard approach.   
Austhinking previous editions: 
  • December 2013 - Habits of Highly Critical Thinkers, JFK, and Superminds
  • October 2013 - Eavesdropping, Intelligence Amplification, and Reality Tours
  • September 2013 - Policy, Business, Law, and Evangelical Atheism
  • July 2013 - Election Forum, China, Jews and Jesus
  • June 2013 - Elections, Predictions, Spies and Shakespeare
  • May 2013 - Meta-analysis, Mapping and Democracy
  • April 2013 - Collective Knowledge, Rise of China, Intelligence, and a Puzzler
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